How HR can help new managers become great leaders

Being good at your job does not always make you an inspirational manager. From moderating inter-team disputes to providing emotional assistance when necessary, today’s managers need to go a long way beyond simply setting targets and ensuring they are delivered on time. 

In other words, helping a team of people achieve success requires very different skills to producing excellent results on your own. 

It, therefore, stands to reason that anyone taking on a management role for the first time is likely to need extra support. The human resources team is perfectly placed to provide this, so let's take a closer look at what makes a good manager, and how HR can help new managers become great leaders.


What makes a good manager?

There’s no doubt great leadership is key to taking your business to the next level.

But not everyone is cut out to be a manager. You can be a brilliant salesman, a meticulous accountant, or an extremely perceptive analyst… None of these skills will make you a great manager unless you’re able to shift your focus to your team rather than your individual pursuits.

As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said: “There are people who can manage a big organization, and then there are people who are very analytical or focused on strategy. The two types don’t usually tend to be in the same person. I would put myself much more in the latter camp.”

That’s why he put the running of his company in the capable hands of Sheryl Sandberg, whose definition of leadership reportedly comes from her time at Harvard Business School.

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence,” she said.

One way to ensure your managers have a positive impact of this kind is to encourage an empathetic approach. Figures from researcher Gartner indicate that managers who display high levels of empathy have three times the impact on their employees’ performance than those who display low levels of empathy.


Other attributes that make a good manager include:

  • Communication skills - being able to communicate well is essential to any management role
  • Frankness - good managers need to be able to resolve disputes and deal with confrontation 
  • Fairness - while it’s important for managers to have authority, they also need to treat all members of the team fairly
  • Emotional intelligence - it’s vital that a manager has the skills to support other members of the team through difficult times
  • Enthusiasm - you can’t expect someone to inspire great results with a half-hearted approach
  • Openness - only a manager who is open to new ways of doing things will be able to make of their colleagues’ ideas
  • Decisiveness - management roles involve making lots of decisions, so dithering is not an option
  • Patience - good managers need to be patient with themselves, as well as their colleagues
  • Industriousness - managers have to set an example, which includes being prepared to put the hours in


What support do new managers need to get great results?

While certain people are naturally blessed with some of the skills you need to be a good leader, nobody is born a great manager; they learn to be one. So management training is a key element in developing leadership abilities.

As this will be the first time many new managers find themselves in a position of authority, many will also require guidance to help them avoid being too strict - or too lenient. 

“Learning where the boundaries need to be drawn with employees is very important,” said Charlotte Kitchman, founder of virtual administration and HR provider The Admin Crowd. “Supporting wellbeing is imperative, but at what point do you draw the line?”

When someone joins the company as a manager, or is promoted to a management position, they also need to be well versed in the organizational culture of the business, as well as what is expected of them and their team. Without these facts at their fingers, they risk missing targets, or wasting time pushing for unnecessary outcomes. 

Finally, as so-called soft skills are an increasingly important part of a manager’s role, particularly with more people working remotely, many new managers will benefit from training in how to lead with empathy, and support their team emotionally when necessary.

“I think the most important thing we can do for new leaders is help them understand that the quality of the relationships they have will impact on their ability to lead,” said Robin Harris, Global Organizational and Talent Development Director at Envision Pharma Group. “For me, leading is about enabling and to do that properly you need to do as much as you can to familiarize yourself with those you are leading - on any level you can.” 


How can HR provide the support new managers need?

HR has an important role to play both when a new manager starts work, and on an ongoing basis. 

In fact, the HR team can even help businesses to avoid making mistakes when appointing new managers internally by offering those earmarked as good management material training in how to head up a team - and finding alternative positions for anyone who shows their skills lie in other areas. 

Once a new manager has been chosen, it’s also HR’s job to ensure he or she is given at least a short training course. Ideally, this should cover a number of topics, including the company culture, plus tips on how to support remote workers, give feedback and have difficult conversations. 

At global commodities company Olam, the Raising Leaders training programme includes 3 modules covering topics such as:

  • Deep dive about Olam, how we do business, global organizational structures
  • Time & work prioritisation
  • Openness to differences
  • Building informal networks
  • Engaging stakeholders & customer centricity

“The Olam Raising Leaders programme nurtures frontline candidates in critical roles, through peer-learning and preps them for their first managerial role,” Olam said in its 2020 annual report. “It covers self leadership, team membership and role delivery, and was used to upskill 174 frontline managers in 2020.”

Where possible, new managers should also be offered training in other areas that will help them steer their teams towards success, not least in how to lead with empathy. They may well, for example, benefit from mental health training designed to help them spot potential issues and support colleagues experiencing poor mental health.

When it comes to ongoing support, meanwhile, proven methods include:

  • Mentoring programmes that enable newbies to call on the wisdom of more experienced managers
  • Regular HR reviews that give them the chance to flag up any concerns
  • Empathy workshops in which managers can practice using their soft skills on each other in a safe environment


5 ways good management helps your business

As billionaire investor Warren Buffet said: “If you have a great manager, you want to pay him very well.”

Here are just five of the rewards you can expect to reap by prioritising good leadership. 

  1. Improved performance - employees will put iN more effort when they want to please their immediate superior
  2. Greater innovation - promoting or taking on managers who encourage new ideas will enable employees to share their insights and suggestions 
  3. Better retention rates - while bad management makes people look for a new job, good leadership makes them want to stay and build a career
  4. Faster growth - when you are branching out into a new field, good management can make the difference between success and failure
  5. Higher profits - with excellent leaders inspiring employees to bring their A game, you should soon see profits start to rise

Find the perfect new manager for your team

Good managers can have a huge impact on the performance of your company. But it’s not always easy to replace a manager, or fill a new leadership position, internally. If you’re struggling to find the right person within your existing team, advertising the role on our Latest Careers page will allow you to connect with thousands of potential applicants. 

Alternatively, ask one of Boston Link’s dedicated consultants to help you find the perfect person for the job. Or check out our recent blog on talent management for more ideas on how to help your employees or colleagues reach their full potential.